Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Arabic: Lingua Franca in Chad

After just short weeks in Chad its evident that my French isn't sufficient to communicate with the people here in Chad.  In meetings at hospitals, with government officials, military, NGOs, restaurants, taxi drivers I have found that maybe half of the people spoke French and maybe 5% of the people spoke English.  If they did speak English, few could get beyond the nice pleasantries and discuss things in detail.  Books and articles in Chad state that French is spoken by the elite, and I found that to be true in Senegal as well but in Dakar most people spoke Wolof and French.  In N'Djamena it seems that the more common lingua franca here is Arabic, followed by a local language, then French.  My Portuguese is absolutely worthless here.

Given that Arabic is the language that counts here, I would like to learn it.  However, I haven't found anything like an Arabic Institute where one could take classes.  The local dialect of Arabic is Chadian Arabic, which is closely related to Sudanese Arabic and similar to Nigerian Arabic but different the Egyptian Arabic which is used to dub most foreign films into Arabic.  Egyptian Arabic is also different than Saudi or Eastern Arabic. In my searches online for Arabic listening and learning tapes I have found claims that Moroccan Arabic is close to Chadian Arabic so I will try to order some Moroccan Arabic phrase books and listening tapes (like Pimsleur and Instant Immersion).

I'll try to get my associates to speak Arabic with me and teach me some phrases but it won't be the same as hiring a teacher.  Please let me know if you can put me in contact with a good Arabic teacher in N'Djamena!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hiring Local Staff in Chad

If you are fortunate enough to be able to hire local staff while living overseas, chosing the right person and following the hiring process is critical.  My friends in Uganda seem to run into problems with staff every six-months that lead to returning to the searching and hiring process.  Here in Chad I am able to hire a gardner and may hire a housekeeper if I can find the right person.  Thankfully I was able to hire the gardner of a friend who was departing N'Djamena, however his housekeeper disappeared so I was not able to hire her as well.  

In Chad, a contract is required for all workers, even part-time, and the contract has to be registered with the state.  The employer is required to contribute 16% of the employees contribution to a state retirement fund and the employee also contributes 4% (for a total of 20% of the employees pay).  Employees are also entitiled to sick days, annual leave, emergency leave, special leave (for births, marriages, funerals) and annual bonuses.  The contract even stipulates the rates of overtime if my employee is asked to work more than the hours specified in the contract.

Salaries depend on what you ask your employee to do and the hours you ask them to work.  For example;a gardner working 20 hours per week may earn 60,000 CFA / $120 per month.  A gardner also responsible for pool maintainence (many expats have pools in N'Djamena) could earn 100,000 CFA / $200 per month.  A housekeeper working three-days a week may earn 75,000 CFA / $150 per month.  There are no general guidelines or recommended salaries but one should remember that the employee is most likely supporting many people with this salary.  A Senegalese housekeeper I knew in Dakar was supporting 18 people with her wages, including putting two nephews through college.  

Market day

For 3,500 CFA (aprox $7) at the market in N'Djamena today I purchased:
-4 Bananas
-2 Tomatoes
-2 Avocados
-10 eggs
-1 head of lettuce
-1 Green bell-pepper

All were locally grown, which is hard to do in a desert.  If I had bought these items as part of the fresh produce flown in weekly from Paris they would have cost three times as much!  Surprisingly the prices I negotiated are similar to what I was paying in a grocery store back in New Hampshire, especially if you consider these would be considered organic and cage-free items.  Sure, others could have negotiated better prices but this was pretty fair.  Now I have to soak all this in bleach-water since I still have a "delicate constitution" from only being back in Africa for just two weeks.

Women's Health & Family Issues NGO

This week I toured a local Chadian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that focused on women's health and family issues.  This organization was supported by Planned Parenthood International but also received donations from the UN and other international organizations.  The NGO provided HIV/AIDS testing and counseling as well as testing for other diseases like syphilis and hepatitis in a small lab in the building.  The cost of a pregnancy test was 3,000 CFA or approximately $6.  The building was powered by two generators out front that enabled the lab to keep medicine and other critical items cold.

On the day I walked through there were nearly 100 women sitting on benches in the waiting area and more sitting outside under the the tall palm trees.  One of the services provided at this NGO is birth control and contraception assistance.  Condoms and Norplant were available.  The staff and clients were all nice and hospitable although I am sure many of the clients were wondering what I was doing in the building.

Funding is always an issue for an NGO like this and it is becoming a greater challenge to sustain operations as NGOs receive less funding from donors and governments.  Cost of services to the locals is critical as people earn very little here.  As funding for this NGO decreases the cost of testing and other fees for services will most likely increase.  The pregnancy test at 3,000 CFA was the most expensive test they offered, but prices could skyrocket or services become unavailable if they do not have the funds to pay the salary of the lab technician.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chadian DMV

Today I went to the DMV to get my Chadian drivers license.  Last week a guy from the office took a couple passport photos and my American drivers license to the DMV and started the paperwork and today we went to take the official photo that will appear on my license.

The DMV is a cluster of buildings on the banks of the Chari river, swarming with people and motorcycles near the round-point with the two arms holding up the globe (I wish I could take pictures here but its against the law unless you have a special permit, and even then you are at risk).  As we pulled up to the building we noticed a cluster of six or seven men standing around a generator on the edge of the compound.  Inside the power was out.

We sat around for about an hour checking out the really cool equipment that was worthless since there was no electricity to make the machines run.  The DMV had video surveillance, magnetic locks, pass-card door entries, deskes filled with laptops, cameras, and other cool stuff but nothing worked.

Eventually we heard the generator roar back to life and the flourescent lights flickered back on and the wall-mounted air conditioning units started shooting cool air into the warm room.  After power was back it only took 15 minutes for the clerk to verify my information and take my picture and we were on our way.  Hopefully next week the drivers license will be ready...

Friday, March 15, 2013

I have been in N'Djamena for almost a week now and am getting settled in.  Life isnt too bad as I have a generator at my residence (runs constantly) and air conditioning, but no internet.  Daytime temperatures have only gotten up to 116*F so its not uncomfortable to hang out under a tree and chat.  It will be interesting to see how it is in the summer time. 

Next week I will get my Chadian drivers license and will try my hand at Chadian traffic.  There arent too many cars on the road but you need to watch out for the motorcycles and bicycles.  The people I have met so far are friendly, but not as talkative as I was used to in Senegal.  Hopefully I can get out and see more of the the area this weekend!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Boko Haram in 2013

A 22 February 2013 IRIN article "Timeline of Boko Haram and related violence in Nigeria" claims over 3000 deaths at the hands of Boko Haram in the past three years, which is an amazing body count.  The Correlates of War only requires 1000 deaths per year to count as a civil war, so on average there has been a civil war for the past three years in Nigeria waged by Boko Haram.  So far in 2013 I have counted 126 killed and 14 kidnapped by Boko Haram according to reports in the press.  

2013 total: 126 killed & 14 kidnapped
-4 March: 8 killed in attack on bank and police station in Gwoza, Nigeria 
-3 March: 20 killed in attack on military base in Monguno, Nigeria 
-24 Feb: 6 killed in attack in Ngalda, Nigeria 
-21 Feb: 3 killed in suicide bombing in Maiduguri, Nigeria 
-20 Feb: 3 killed in suicide bombing in Maiduguri, Nigeria 
-19 Feb: Kidnapping of 7 French tourists from Waza Park, Cameroon 
-16 Feb: Kidnapping of 7 foreign construction workers from Jama’are, Nigeria
-15 Feb: 1 Soldier killed in attempted suicide bombing in Maiduguri, Nigeria
-10 Feb: 3 North Korean doctors killed in Potiskum, Nigeria (suspected BH)
-8 Feb: 10 polio immunization workers killed in Kano, Nigeria
-27 Jan: 8 killed in attack on Gajiganna village, Nigeria (nera Maiduguri)
-23 Jan: 5 beheaded in Gwange area of Maiduguri
-22 Jan: 5 killed in Dakata district of Kano
-21 Jan: 18 killed in Damboa, Nigeria (Borno state)
-19 Jan: 2 Soldiers killed in Kogi state
-19 Jan: 5 killed in convoy ambush in Kano 
-17 Jan: 4 killed at military checkpoint in Kano
-4 Jan: 7 killed at military checkpoint in Kano
-2 Jan: 4 killed in attack on police station in Song (Adamawa state)
-1 Jan: 14 killed in shootout in Maiduguri

Today the Sultan of Sokoto called on the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to Boko Haram fighters and other combatants in Northern Nigeria.  However, on 22 February 2013, the Nigerian Presidency denied any offers of amnesty.  In addition, a Boko Haram leader denied peace talks with the government in a beheading video released on 5 March 2013.  There doesn't appear to be an end to the violence in the near future.